Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. Candlewick Press, 2016
Nora López is finishing high school uncertain about the future. Encouraged to apply to the New York City Community College trades program, she can’t imagine being able to go when her mom, Mima, struggles to pay the rent. When recent murders of young, dark-haired women in the city turn out to be the actions of a serial killer, who begins writing letters to the press signed “Son of Sam,” the growing tension and fear is tangible. It pulses through Nora’s Queens neighborhood and the city like the disco rhythms and intense heat so prevalent that spring of 1977. And it explodes into looting following the citywide blackout. But the more pressing danger for Nora is at home, where her younger brother, Hector, is increasingly violent and out of control. Cuban- born Mima says Hector is just a boy in need of a good girl to help him settle down. Mima’s sexism and blinders infuriate Nora, but Nora is also too ashamed to tell her best friend, her boyfriend, her caring boss at the market, teachers, or anyone else what’s happening. Son of Sam is caught, almost anticlimactically, even as the threat in Nora’s personal life escalates. An exceptional novel captures the textures and turbulence of time and place and the complexities of Nora’s relationships vividly. Even before Son of Sam is arrested, it’s becoming clear that community rather than family is Nora’s greatest source of safety, while her own resilience is her greatest strength, especially once she breaks her silence. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:
- Why do you think Nora keeps the issues she was experiencing at home secret?
- “The real dangers are often closer to home then we’d like to admit.” What do you think this quote from the blurb on the back cover of the book means or conveys?
- How does setting both at home and in the world impact Nora’s life?